PLC / PAC Building Automation Systems (BAS)

You think you have control of your building, but YOU DO NOT.

Manufacturing has infinitely more complex automation when compared to building automation. And their maintenance and engineering personnel have much greater control over their automation and equipment than building maintenance and engineering do over theirs. As a result, manufacturing maintenance/engineering has the control to run a more efficient system, at a lower cost per life of the equipment.

ControlLogix PAC Controller

ControlLogix PAC can perform multiple functions such as HVAC, Lighting and Manufacturing Equipment.

What is the difference between Manufacturing Automation Systems (MAS) and Building Automation Systems (BAS)?

What is the difference that gives manufacturing maintenance and engineering more control of their systems than their counterparts in building operations have? In one short answer… standardization and access to true controllers of manufacturing equipment, PLC/PACs.

PAC = Programmable Automation Controller
Designed with an IT/computer programmer in mind, but has PLC functionality also built into it, so it can be maintenance/engineering friendly too.

At the root, the lowest level of control on every piece of equipment in a manufacturing facility is a Programmable Logic Controller (PLC). PLC were designed specifically to be user friendly for facility maintenance and engineering by using a standard control language called ladder logic, which is like an electrical schematic.

In contrast, at the lowest level of control in building automation systems are non-standard proprietary circuits and software that building maintenance and engineering do not have access to or training to work with.

“Lowest level of control”
MAS = All PLC, full access, standard programming
BAS = many different proprietary circuits/software, no access, non-standard programming.

To make a small change to increase efficiency or functionality and often even to troubleshoot or repair, building maintenance personnel need to call in that particular vendor. That creates several barriers and sometimes makes it impossible for constant improvement and increase downtime cost. These factors also exponentially increase Total Cost of Ownership.

In my travels, I use many building elevators running the simple logic in my head that a PLC would need to control them. My experience teaching best-practices PLC programming shows me building elevator control is the least energy efficient of all building automation systems, but that is a topic for another time.


What has been your experience when dealing with
access and standardization of PLCs or BAS controllers and systems?


2 Responses to PLC / PAC Building Automation Systems (BAS)

  1. Ian Narinesingh July 26, 2013 at 13:46

    Hi, I have a lot of experience in manufacturing/process plant automation and system integration, but have never done any building automation…How would you recommend that I get into this industry?

  2. First you might try networking with those already in the industry, like joining an organization for example Association for Facilities Engineering (


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